In the European Union, Apple Inc. will be allowing third party companies to build their own app stores and run them on iOS devices. This has been a long sought-after goal for many third party businesses, who have waged an ongoing battle with the tech giant to open its platform. The potential long-term ramifications of these changes could have a significant global effect on Apple.
Apple, being the technology powerhouse it is, has become hugely ingrained in the western world, from its collection of devices, to its TV offerings, to its underrated Apple Arcade service. One of the things that's made it so appealing to many, is the company's focus on user privacy and security. A huge part of the company's marketing and features are geared toward that end, and it's on these grounds that it has heretofore resisted pressures to open up its operating systems to third party software - at least, if it didn't go through Apple first. A less altruistic perspective would note that the company takes a substantial cut from the businesses forced to go through its App Store, from 15% to 30%.
Despite Apple's best efforts to avoid it, new laws in the EU will require the company to allow its customers to download and install third-party software outside its own store, including wholly different app stores. The law, called the Digital Markets Act, is designed to create a more fair landscape for smaller developers, while providing a better experience for customers. This would also loosen the company's strict policies regarding the content it allows on its devices. For example, earlier this year, Apple threatened to remove apps and games that had not updated recently, upsetting users and developers alike. It's this type of treatment that has pushed developers to seek some freedom under initiatives like the Digital Markets Act. The act will take effect in the next few months, though compliance with the law will not be enforced until 2024.
Other stipulations under the law include a requirement that Apple allow third-party payment systems, and that it opens its iMessage and Messages app to developers as well. Earlier this year, an Apple update allowed users to edit and unsend texts, but the long years it took for such a feature to appear only underlines the tight hold the company has on its software. News of the upcoming changes has already stirred up a response among app shareholders. Companies such as Bumble Inc. and Spotify Technology SA saw stocks raise by nearly 10%, as investors clearly see the development as a good sign. Interestingly, Apple stocks have thus far seen almost no change.
The shift coming in the EU, and all the necessary work on Apple's end, mean that the stage is set for changes to come to the west as well. For gamers this could mean access to previously impossible experiences, and certainly more games. The Apple Arcade service is solid, and developments like the classic Nintendo controllers seeing support on Apple devices, show that the company do care about video game fans, but they've always felt like second fiddle to its other audiences. Perhaps with the changes, Apple fans will finally get a more substantial gaming experience.
But, if Apple is to be believed, these changes may indeed come with a degree of compromised security. It will ultimately be up to the company to bolster its defenses, and the individual users to make the final choice about what to invite on to their devices.
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